Lady Hornets open State Tournament play this afternoon against Rogers

By Rob Patrick

ROGERS — With one player that had contended with varsity play in the rugged 7A/6A-Central Conference going into the 2010-11 season, the Bryant Lady Hornets were[more] learning every step along the way. They had their ups and downs as they learned, sometimes the hard way, what was necessary to deal with the competitive nature of the teams, the physical nature of the play, and the intensive effort required.

Now, the “homework” is over, the “classroom assignments” are through, it’s time to assess the progress, see how much they’ve learned, to take the “semester test.”

Today at 1 p.m., the Lady Hornets “exam” will begin with a game against the Lady Mountaineers of Rogers High School, a hometown team at the Class 7A State Tournament, which is being played at the home of their cross-town rivals at Rogers Heritage.

“If we would just have five girls on the floor play as hard as they can and bring and do what they can do,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Blake Condley. “That’s what we’ve been preaching these last two or three weeks. Don’t try to do somebody else’s job. Do what you can do, bring what you bring to this team the best you can. And I think we’ll be fine.

“I still don’t feel like this team has reached their potential,” he added. “We’ve seen flashes of it but just getting a consistency of doing that. That’s what I hope for. ”

The Lady Mounties are the No. 3 seed from the 7A-West, 20-7, overall. Bryant comes in at 18-9, the sixth seed from the Central.

“They’re the hottest team in the West Conference right now,” said Condley. “They’ve won five games in a row. They’re playing really well right now.”

Actually, the Lady Mounties had lost five in a row before closing the regular season with five wins in eight days including road games against three teams that were ahead of them in the standings, Fort Smith Northside, Fort Smith Southside and Springdale.

“They had to win a lot of games the last couple of weeks to get to that third seed,” Condley noted.

The Lady Mounties feature a solid inside player in 5-11 sophomore Taylor Strickland, surrounded by 3-point shooters.

“(Strickland) might score 20 or 25 a game,” Condley mentioned. “She’s a good athlete, a good strong girl inside. We’ve got to do a good job on her. We’ve got to try to neutralize her. If we’re able to do that and we can contain their guards. They shoot it okay too and a lot of that is that so much attention gets paid to the post girl, it really leaves their guards open.

“So we’ve got to be able to play good post defense, while we’re not giving up too much trying to help,” he added. “We’ve got to close out on shooters too. The games that Rogers has won, their shooters have been on. They’ve been able to hit 3’s. When they’ve lost, their shooters haven’t been able to hit anything.

“I think some of it comes down to how you play defense,” he concluded. “If we’re intense and if we do our job defensively, then I think we cause them some problems and maybe their shooters don’t get spotted up where they’re comfortable shooting. That’s the thing. We just want to try to keep their players from getting comfortable and getting into a rhythm.”

Regarding his team, Condley added, “I told the girls, it’s an all-new season. Everybody’s 0-0 right now. Let’s just be consistent. Let’s just play this one game. And if we win that one game, we’ll play one more game. It’s a one-game season right now. If you don’t handle your first one, then you don’t have another day to play.”

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